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Published on October 17, 2012, by in Au Pair.

There are few things as heartbreaking and infuriating as learning that your child is the victim of bullying. As attention towards this very real problem allows more parents to understand that the way some children are treated is more serious than a simple case of “kids being kids,” efforts to crack down on schoolyard harassment are increased. If your child is among the millions that are physically or emotionally tormented by a bullying peer, these 10 tips can help you navigate this delicate situation.

  1. Recognize the Signs – Kids are often reluctant to approach an adult or to report bullying behavior because of a sense of shame or embarrassment. It’s important to keep your eyes open for any signs of bullying so that you’re able to recognize them and begin to help your child solve the problem.
  2. Be Available – While pushing or pressuring your child to open up about any trouble he’s having at school is likely to make him even more reluctant to talk, it’s imperative that your child know you’re there and available to listen to him whenever he does need to talk to you. When he’s not being pressed to talk about being bullied, he may be more willing to open up.
  3. Ask Questions – Make sure that you take the time to learn what sort of abuse your child is suffering from, why it’s happening and what you can do to support him through it.
  4. Discourage Retaliation – It’s imperative that you not only abstain from encouraging your child to retaliate against bullying peers, but also that you take an obvious stand against it. Retaliation will only cause your child to land himself in trouble, and can often backfire in terrible ways.
  5. Save Harassing Communications – Make sure that any emails, private messages on social networking sites, texts or voice messages that contain harassing statements, threats or other proof of bullying are saved for reporting purposes.
  6. Speak With School Administrators – In persistent cases of bullying, the best course of action is to calmly approach school administrators to discuss the matter. Though it can be understandably difficult for you to keep your emotions under wraps during these conversations, it’s important to remember that you’re more likely to get the results you’re looking for if you maintain your composure and remain calm.
  7. Teach Him How to Block and Report Cyberbullies –Social networking sites, email providers and other Internet-based communication portals almost always have “Block and Report” options, which can help to prevent some harassing messages from reaching a bullied kid. Make sure that your child knows how to block social networking profiles, email addresses and phone numbers from contacting him.
  8. Get Him Involved in an Activity or Hobby – Helping your child find a hobby that he’s interested in and getting him involved in activities outside of school can not only help to distract him from the taunts of his classmates, but also can boost his confidence when he discovers that he’s skilled in a particular area.
  9. Nurture His Self-Esteem – Your child’s self-esteem takes a battering when he’s taunted by bullies, making it imperative that you do everything you can to help him rebuild it. Make an effort to let him know that he’s an important, treasured part of the family, and that he’s loved very much and cannot be replaced.
  10. Consider Counseling – In particularly severe or long-term cases of bullying, your child may require the services of a counselor to work out his feelings and begin to recover. Remember that years of being bullied are the equivalent of being abused for that period of time, and may require some assistance for your child to overcome.

To put bullying into perspective, imagine that the children committing these acts against their peers were adults. Physically harming someone or intimidating them in order to take their money is robbery and assault. Slander, libel, harassment, assault and even sexual assault are all crimes that adults are charged with, but are often considered little more than a childhood rite of passage when they’re committed by other kids. Bullying is no laughing matter, though, and should never be taken lightly.

Published on October 3, 2012, by in Au Pair.

While the concept afternoon tea originated in France, contrary to what most people believe, the English made taking an afternoon tea fashionable.  The English usually take their afternoon tea between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon, whereas Americanized versions of afternoon tea tend to be held between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon.  And while children may not care for tea, most enjoy the pomp and ceremony that comes with a traditional high tea experience.

Here’s how to host a kid-friendly afternoon tea:

Types of afternoon tea

Traditionally there are three different ways or types of afternoon or low tea.  The term low tea originated because the food and tea was placed on low coffee tables.  People rarely were sitting at a regular table covered with a table cloth, even though that is what is often pictured when thinking of a tea party.

  • Cream Tea: A cream tea consists of tea, scones, jam and cream.
  • Light Tea: A light tea involves tea, scones and pastries.
  • Full Tea: A full tea includes tea, sandwiches, scones and sweets.


Savories or tea sandwiches are common fare at a full tea.  Tea sandwiches are simple to make and usually only include a couple of ingredients.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into 4 triangles would be a tasty choice for the kids.  For adults a sliced cucumber and Boursin cheese sandwich on white bread is an elegant option.  Mini croissants filled with chicken salad can be a good option for both kids and adults.

Scones can be purchased from a bakery and served with jam.  Devonshire cream is difficult to come by in the states, but a good substitution would be mascarpone cheese mixed with powdered sugar to taste.

Any type of delicate cookie or tiny cake would be appropriate for the sweet portion of the tea.  Traditionally petit fours are served, and these can usually be found at a bakery.


An afternoon tea typically is not decorated for in the usual sense.  Often food is served out of silver bowls and off of silver trays, but anything can be used.  Since an afternoon tea is a more formal affair, try to stay away from bright colors, instead choosing pastels as they are more traditional.  Sweets can be displayed on tiered serving stands and cake stands to really highlight how decadent they are.

Kid-sized tables can be made available for the children attending the tea since balancing everything in your lap can be a more advanced skill.

Tea etiquette

  • Holding a tea cup:  Tea cups didn’t used to have handles when people first began drinking hot tea.  Putting your index finger and middle finger at the top of the cup and your thumb directly opposite of them will help balance the cup.  The pinky was then extended out at an angle to help balance the cup so as not to spill the hot tea.  That’s where the tradition of holding your pinky up began.
  • Using a spoon: The spoon should not be swirled around and around in the cup when stirring.  It should be used in a gentle folding motion from front to back, and this should only be done a few times before the spoon is placed on the saucer.
  • Serving tea: Tea should be served with milk, not cream like you would for coffee.  You can also provide lemon slices to float in the tea.  Traditionally lemon wedges are not squeezed into hot tea.  Avoid adding both lemon and milk to tea because the lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle.
  • Drinking tea: Tea is meant to be sipped slowly.  Slurping tea is considered rude.  Hot tea is not meant to wash down your food.  Swallow the food in your mouth before you sip your tea.

Types of Tea

  • White Tea: White tea is a loose leaf tea that is not typically found in a tea bag.  It’s not a strong tea, but instead has a delicate flavor.  White tea is very good for your health because of the antioxidants that it contains.
  • Black Tea: Black tea is dark, as the name suggests, and is typically found in a tea bag.  It has the highest caffeine content and is a healthier alternative to coffee.  Black tea aids in circulation and regulating cholesterol.  This tea is most often served during afternoon tea.
  • Green Tea: Green tea is often found in leaf form and mixed with flowers or fruit to enhance its flavor.  This tea is low in caffeine and is often recommended for weight loss. 
  • Oolong Tea: Oolong tea is very flavorful and can be quite fragrant and somewhat sweet.  Children who want to try drinking hot tea may enjoy Oolong tea with some honey.
  • Herbal Tea: Herbal tea is not truly a tea at all.  It is made up of herbs, fruits and flower blossoms.  This tea is more of an infusion of flavors, is usually caffeine-free, and contains vitamin C.

Hosting an afternoon tea can be planned in advance or thrown together with short notice.  Typically afternoon teas are not large gatherings, but just something shared among a few friends.  An afternoon tea might be nice to incorporate into your next play date.  Enjoy your friends and a few light snacks while you catch up and your kids play together.

Published on September 26, 2012, by in Au Pair.

In September 2012 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released the findings of its National Child Restraint Use Special Study, a national sur­vey of child restraint system use in children from birth to age 8.

The study revealed five significant and common car seat mistakes.

These included:

1. Using the wrong harness slot. When it comes to car seat harnesses, best practice dictates that in rear-facing seats the slots at or below the child’s shoulders should be used. For forward-facing seats, the slots at or above the child’s shoulders should be used. According to the study, when the wrong slots are used it can increase the risk of excessive excursion.

2. Improper chest clip positioning. The proper place for the chest clip to be positioned is at armpit level. When the chest clip is positioned over the abdomen, down by the crotch, or not used at all it can also increase the risk of excessive excursion.

3. Loose installation. Car seats should not move more than one inch front to back or side-to-side across the belt path. Loose installation may allow for excessive movement of the seat which could increase the risk of injury.

4. Loose harness straps. The harness straps of a child’s car seat should be snug and there should be no slack when pinched at the child’s shoulder. Loose straps not only can result in a greater risk of excessive excursion, but can increase the risk of ejection and injury.

5. Improper belt positioning in booster seats. When riding in a booster seat, the lap belt should lie snugly across the child’s thighs, not across the stomach, and the shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder, and not the child’s neck, chest, or face. Improper positioning of seatbelts can increase the risk of excessive excursion and abdominal injury.

The study also cited that one in five parents do not read any instructions when installing their child’s car seat. Reading the car seat installation manual carefully can help prevent critical misuses that can increase the risk of injury in the event of a motor vehicle crash.

SafeKids and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator encourage everyone to conduct an at-home car seat safety check.

In addition to reading the car seat installation manual, parents and caregivers should be sure that:

1. The child is in the right seat for his age, weight, and height.

2. The car seat is placed in the back seat and that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat.

3. Children use rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, until he outgrows the seat.

4. The installed seat can’t be moved more than one inch front to back or side-to-side along the belt path.

5. The child’s harness is in the correct slots and that, when in use, they’re adjusted snugly with the chest clip at armpit level. Parents and caregivers should not be able to pinch the straps at the child’s shoulder once he’s properly fastened in.

When it comes to car seat safety, parents and caregivers must be on the same page. An agreement to follow best practices should be made and parents and caregivers should commit to ensuring that all passengers are properly secured in an appropriate car seat restraint system at all times.

Published on September 19, 2012, by in Au Pair.

As harvest time approaches and the heat of summer gives way to the cooler weather of fall, family outings and school field trips to pumpkin patches and apple orchards become more and more common. While these outings can seem like little more than entertainment at face value, there are actually some very valuable lessons that kids can learn during their visit. Here are nine of the things that your child will almost certainly learn about from a single trip to the pumpkin patch this autumn.

  1. The Life Cycle – Even the biggest pumpkin in the patch begins as a tiny, tiny seed, which is something that your child will learn when he visits the patch where those pumpkins grow. Most pumpkin patches and orchards that open for tours and outings also provide a guide of sorts for each group, and he will typically offer a brief explanation of the life cycle, simplified to help little ones grasp the basics.
  2. Agriculture and Farming Practices – Many children, especially those that live in metropolitan and urban areas, have only a faint idea of farming and how agriculture affects their own lives. Taking a trip to the pumpkin patch, where farmers actively cultivate pumpkins and other crops, can help kids gain a better understanding of the important role that farming plays in society.
  3. Bees and Pollination – Bees are an integral part of the pumpkin-growing process, something that kids learn when pollination is explained. In addition to the hands-on science lesson, kids can also learn that bees are more than just scary, stinging insects, and that they actually play an important role in our ecosystem.
  4. Weights and Measures –Pumpkins are usually sold by weight, something that your child will be able to learn when he purchases his own pumpkin for carving or painting. Parents or caregivers that are determined to help kids learn as much as possible on their trip can also help children in their care measure the pumpkins they choose while teaching them about circumference and units of measure.
  5. Buying and Selling – While they might be fun places to visit and learn, pumpkin patches are, above all else, a marketplace. Kids can get a hands-on, up-close-and-personal view of the mercantile process, the ins and outs of buying and selling, and the way that our society trades money for goods.
  6. Shapes and Colors – The prevailing image of a pumpkin is one that is large, round, and orange. In reality, however, they actually come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. Young children can practice their color and shape recognition skills at the patch, and older kids can learn about the dominant and recessive genes that cause these variations.
  7. Counting and Basic Math – Helping a youngster practice his counting skills, or basic addition and subtraction for kids that are a bit older, is greatly simplified when the objects in question are large and sport a bright orange hue.
  8. Halloween and Harvest Time Legends – The legends of Halloween aren’t always considered suitable for all children, depending upon their family’s belief system, however harvest legends from cultures around the world are a great way to help kids appreciate diversity and gain a larger world view than what they’re afforded in their own city. Using a trip to the pumpkin patch as a conversation starter about such subjects can ensure that your kids have a fun-filled afternoon that’s followed by an informative discussion around the dinner table.
  9. Farming is Hard Work! – When children have little-to-no working knowledge of farming or agriculture it’s easy for them to imagine that fruits and vegetables are produced in a factory alongside their favorite processed snacks. With a single trip to the pumpkin patch and a chance to observe the farmers there, kids can learn to appreciate the hard work that goes into every piece of fruit or vegetable that they eat.

Though the hot summer days may be fading into the cool, crisp days of fall, it’s still important to remember your child’s delicate skin before an outdoor adventure. Be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and instruct him on proper behavior and safety to prevent any accidents or mishaps along the way. If you’re taking a self-guided tour of the pumpkin patch as a family, it might also be wise to brush up on your farming and gardening knowledge beforehand so that you can pass it along to your kids in the absence of an expert guide.

Published on September 11, 2012, by in Au Pair.

Once upon a time, kids who needed homework help had only their parents or caregivers to turn to. In today’s high-tech world, however, that’s all changed. Because a staggering number of modern kids have the power of an iPhone in their pocket, there’s a world of virtual tutoring programs available at their fingertips. Check out these 10 homework helper apps that can help kids manage and complete their assignments.

  1. iHomework – One of the most important things a homework-dedicated iPhone app can help kids do is to remember their assignments in the first place, and iHomework doesn’t disappoint. At only $0.99 in the App Store, this useful application allows students to keep track of their assignments for each class, manage projects, and stay on top of due dates for those assignments.
  2. FlashCards++ – Because this $3.99 app allows kids or parents to create their own flashcards for study purposes, this app can help kids from kindergarten to senior year study and retain information. Any area that your kids need coaching and special attention in can be managed with FlashCards++, and your created cards can be backed up with Dropbox to prevent data loss.
  3. Grammar Guide – When kids get old enough to start writing papers and book reports, teachers begin expecting correct grammar and composition, as well as an understanding of the covered material. With Grammar Guide, you can put a powerful reference tool in your kids’ hands, allowing them to look up anything they’re not sure about on the spot. Put an end to essays covered in red marks!
  4. Spelling Tutor – Younger kids can practice their spelling on the go using your iPhone if they don’t have their own with this $0.99 app that makes studying spelling fun. Create your own lists to correspond with those that are currently being covered in class as a study aid for your youngsters, and watch them become spelling bee champs.
  5. The Chemical Touch Lite – For kids learning the Periodic Table of Elements, The Chemical Touch Lite will be a lifesaver. The app maker says “Sometimes all you need is simply a periodic table.” Students will agree he got that right!
  6. Free Graphing Calculator – Graphing calculators are certainly not cheap, and they only have one use. This free app turns your child’s iPhone into a graphing calculator which, while still pricey, will at least allow you to keep in touch with them as well as help them complete their math homework.
  7. myHomework – A free app for managing assignments and test dates, myHomework is another that provides the very essential assistance of reminding kids that they have homework in the first place. The app can be used on either the iPhone or the iPad, and can also sync with the dedicated website to allow desktop access as well mobile management.
  8. iStudiez Pro – Not only does iStudiez allow your child to manage their homework assignments and class schedules, it also makes monitoring and tracking grade point averages and alerts easy. High school kids in advanced placement classes with high academic goals will definitely benefit from this app, which is directed largely at students on the collegiate level but can be easily adapted for high school users.
  9. – Dictionary & Thesaurus – Recommended by Time Magazine, CNET and Apple themselves, the app puts a comprehensive and exhaustive dictionary in your child’s pocket. In addition to the standard definition and proper usage information, this $2.99 app also provides audio pronunciation assistance and allows kids to shake their phone for random words, which is a powerful vocabulary-building tool.
  10. Mathemagics – Easy Algebra Fast – Mastering algebra is no easy feat, but this $0.99 app helps kids do just that. Helping kids learn to solve equations quickly, Mathemagics is like having an algebra tutor in your child’s back pocket. Practicing and accessing lessons, preparing for standardized tests, and getting top grades in algebra can all be accomplished with the combination of this one app and a bit of dedication.

While these apps and others of their ilk make it easier for kids to complete and manage their homework, they are no substitute for the one-on-one attention that comes with the assistance of an adult helper. The best use for these apps is as an aid for increasing kids’ independence level, rather than taking the place of quality time with a parent or caregiver.

Published on August 19, 2012, by in Au Pair.

It’s like clockwork every evening. Everyone is finally home from school or work and the first words out of their mouths are, “What’s for dinner?” And while you want to serve your family a healthy, home-cooked meal, you’d rather not have to stand in the kitchen for the next hour to fix it.  Check out these stress-reducing tricks for getting dinner on the table faster each night:

  1. Create a menu.  The most important thing you can do every weekend to reduce weekday dinner stress is to come up with a menu for the following week. If you know what meals you are going to fix throughout the week things will go a lot smoother.  You won’t spend time standing and staring at the open refrigerator waiting for inspiration to strike.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need.  If you make up your menu in advance and include the ingredients necessary for each meal in your grocery list you should have a complete list for shopping.  By having everything you need already at home you won’t need to run by the store for any last minute ingredients after work.
  3. Do your prep work early.  By getting up a little earlier in the morning and prepping the ingredients for that night’s meal you will save yourself a lot of time and effort when you come home tired.  Gather up the vegetables that need to be chopped and chop them up and put them in zip top bags.  Put all of the individual ingredients into one big gallon sized zip top bag and label the bag.  If you’d like, you can prep for a few days’ worth of meals in advance.
  4. Utilize your slow cooker.  The slow cooker is a huge help on busy week nights.  Just put everything in the slow cooker before you leave for work and turn it on low.  You will come home to the delectable smell of a home cooked meal wafting through your house, and a dinner that’s ready to be served.  Add a salad and dinner is on the table in less than 10 minutes, and you barely broke a sweat.
  5. Brown hamburger or ground turkey in batches.  A great money and time saving tip is to buy your ground meat in bulk.  Break it up into portions that you will need for your family.  Brown up the meat and put it into quart sized freezer bags.  Label it with what it is and the date that you cooked it and toss it into the freezer.  On spaghetti night you can grab a bag right out of the freezer, defrost it in the microwave, and toss it into the sauce.
  6. Make up several casseroles on the weekend.  If you know that you will have a particularly busy week you might want to spend some time on Saturday or Sunday mixing up some casseroles.  Find casserole recipes that will freeze well.  Come home from the grocery store and start cooking.  If you use foil pans to freeze your casseroles in you won’t even need to wash up the dish after dinner.  Make sure you label everything with what it is and the date you put it in the freezer.  Try to use the oldest thing first so it doesn’t get freezer burned.
  7. Implement a family sandwich night.  Come up with some fun new recipes for sandwiches and start having a sandwich night once a week.  Throw a pot roast into the slow cooker and let it get fall apart tender all day that way when you come home you just have to add the barbeque sauce for pulled barbeque sandwiches.  Add some fruit and a salad and dinner is on the table in minutes.
  8. Try adding a theme night to your menu once a week.  This can be a baked potato bar where everyone helps themselves to the toppings, a taco night where everyone builds their own tacos, or a personal pizza night where everyone can construct their own pizzas.  For pizza night provide some store bought dough, English muffins, or French bread and set out the toppings for the kids to go to town building their perfect personal pizza creation.  Then toss them in the oven to bake and let everyone who’s already in the kitchen help you throw together a quick salad and some pudding for dessert.
  9. Take some help from the store.  Buying a rotisserie chicken instead of baking your own chicken is a smart way to save yourself time since so many recipes call for cooked chicken.  Throw together some chicken enchiladas by adding rotisserie chicken to some enchilada sauce and wrapping them in tortillas.  These can be made the morning of and covered with plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator.  All you have to do is pull them out and bake them when you get home.
  10. Leftover night is often the best night of the week.  Having one of those nights that you are just too tired to make anything?  Then don’t!  Fall back on leftovers. Doing so is a great way to save time, money and to keep the fridge free of spoiled-food.
Published on August 1, 2012, by in Au Pair.

While gourmet cupcake bakeries are on the rise, there’s no need to pay top dollar at a bakery for super cute and tasty birthday cupcakes when you can make them for much cheaper on your own.  Check out these 10 ways to dress up a plain cupcake for your child’s next birthday.

  1. Flavored frosting with fruit makes an elegant cupcake decoration.  Bake up your favorite vanilla or yellow cupcake and then add a few tablespoons of a fruit puree to the mix.  Take the same fruit puree and add a tablespoon full to your favorite buttercream recipe.  Now take some fresh fruit and top your frosted cupcake with it.  This method works well with raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries.
  2. Plain frosting with sprinkles let you know it’s a party.  Instead of adding vanilla to your buttercream frosting add 1 to 2 teaspoons of cotton candy flavoring.  Frost your cupcakes like normal and sprinkle with jimmies.  Sprinkles are always a fun and festive treat.
  3. Frost the cupcakes and then dip them in melted chocolate for a special treat. These special treats are called hi-hats.  Instead of making a normal buttercream frosting, make a meringue type frosting.  In a metal bowl beat 1 ¾ C sugar, ¼ C water, 3 large egg whites, and ¼ t of cream of tartar on high until it becomes frothy.  Now place it over a pan of simmering water and continue to beat on high speed until you get stiff peaks. (They will hold their shape when you lift the beater.)  This step takes 10 to 12 minutes.  Stir in 1 t of vanilla extract and then put the meringue into a pastry bag and pipe the tops of the cupcakes.  Now melt a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 3 T. of shortening in the microwave.  Put the melted chocolate in a tall narrow container for dipping.  Next, dip the cupcakes into the chocolate as if they were chocolate dipped ice cream cones and then allow them to cool.
  4. Use a cookie as a cupcake topper.  If your child likes the combination of chocolate and peanut butter there’s a fun way to make a cupcake for him that combines both of his loves.  Make your favorite chocolate cupcakes and allow them to cool.  In the meantime, make some buttercream frosting and add in ¼ C. of peanut butter.  Frost the cupcakes with the peanut butter frosting and top with a peanut butter sandwich cookie.
  5. Create small decorations out of fondant.  Fondant is made of shortening and sugar.  It rolls out like dough and you can buy it at most craft or baking stores.  Using gel colors you can color your fondant any color you’d like.  Dust the counter with powdered sugar and roll out the fondant so that it’s about ¼” thick.  Using tiny cookie cutters cut out shapes that will coordinate with the theme of your party.  You can lay the fondant on top of the frosted cupcake or let the fondant dry and then stand the shape up in the frosting.
  6. Give your cupcakes the airbrushed look.  No need to buy an expensive airbrush to get the airbrushed look.  The same coloring comes in an aerosol can now and can be used on cupcakes.  Frost your cupcakes like normal and allow the frosting to crust (dry to the touch).  Place the cupcakes on a newspaper covered surface.  Using long strokes spray the top of the frosted cupcake.  Make sure to start and stop off of the cupcake.  If you’d like you can make them half and half by blocking half of the cupcake with a piece of cardboard while you are spraying.
  7. Make S’mores cupcakes using a kitchen torch.  Instead of using frosting to frost your cupcake, use marshmallow cream.  Have some mini chocolate bars or broken pieces of chocolate ready to stick into the marshmallow cream.  Crush some graham crackers and keep them beside you in a bowl.  Take a kitchen torch and toast the marshmallow cream, sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs, and stick a piece of chocolate into the marshmallow. 
  8. Dress up cookie dough cupcakes with mini chips and mini cookies.  To make cookie dough cupcakes, take some store bought chocolate chip cookie dough and roll it into 1 inch balls.  Make your chocolate or vanilla cupcake batter as usual, but before baking add the cold cookie dough to the center of the cupcake.  Make the cookie dough chunks big enough so they are not fully submerged in batter.  Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Frost with vanilla buttercream, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, and top with a mini chocolate chip cookie.
  9. Edible sugared flowers will add a touch of whimsy to your cupcakes.  Edible flowers are available at specialty grocery stores.  Buy a mixture of edible flowers and lay them out on some waxed paper.  Beat up an egg white and pour it into a shallow bowl.  Pour some superfine sugar into another shallow bowl.  Take your flowers, one at a time, and dip them first into the egg white and then into the sugar.  Place the coated flowers back on the waxed paper to dry.  Frost your cupcakes like normal and top right away with a sugared flower.
  10. Add chocolate cut-out flowers for a springtime birthday.  Melt a cup of candy melts with 1 T of shortening.  Spread it onto a piece of waxed paper about 1/8” thick.  Place onto the bottom side of a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes.  Once the chocolate is set remove from the refrigerator.  Take a small metal cookie cutter in the shape of a flower and dip it into a small bowl of hot water.  Dry it off and quickly use the warm cookie cutter to cut out flowers from the chocolate.  Frost the cupcakes with green frosting and apply the chocolate flowers to the cupcakes.  Using a little frosting you can apply M&M’s to the centers of the flowers.  Do one flower or a whole bouquet on each cupcake.
Published on July 26, 2012, by in Au Pair.

According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, the protein needs in children change and increase as they get older.  For instance, a child 2 to 3 years old requires 13 to 50g of protein per day and a child 4 to 8 years of age requires 30 to 90g per day.  Once kids get to be 9 to 13 years of age, boys need more protein than girls, with boys needing 40 to 120g and girls needing 35 to 105g.  Protein makes up about 45% of the human body and is essential for good health, so it’s important to make sure that kids fulfill their recommended daily intake.  To help your child reach their daily requirement of protein here are some tasty high protein snacks.

  1. Hummus with pita chips is a high protein snack.  You can buy premade hummus or you can make your own at home.  To make your own, combine 1 can of chick peas, ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 T. of lemon juice, and 1 t. of cumin in a food processor.  Blend all of the ingredients together until they have a smooth and creamy texture.  To make your own pita chips, take 4 pitas and split them open so you have a single layer of bread. Cut each piece into wedges (6 to 8 per pita).  Brush the insides with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and dried oregano if you like.  Spread the chips into a single layer on two baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned.
  2. Banana with chocolate hazelnut spread makes a tasty, protein-rich snack.  Cut a banana in half and dip one end into the hazelnut spread to coat it, and then dip it into some chopped nuts to cover the spread. When you add the 2 T of chocolate hazelnut spread and 1 oz. of chopped peanuts to the banana, the snack clocks in with a whopping 10g of protein. This snack is very versatile and you can change it up according to your child’s tastes.  If your child doesn’t care for nuts, or has a nut allergy, coconut makes a good substitute. If you want to have a sweet treat you can dip the banana in mini chocolate chips.
  3. Smoothies make a quick protein laden snack, and are perfect for breakfasts on the go.  Blend your choice of frozen and fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, protein powder (optional), and some juice or milk in the blender.  If you use all fresh fruit add about a cup of ice to the blender. Be sure to use Greek yogurt in place of regular yogurt because it has twice the protein.  If you make the smoothie with a cup of Greek yogurt, fruit, juice, and a full scoop of protein powder it will contain 45g of protein.  (Protein powder is best consumed first thing in the morning or after exercise.)
  4. Protein filled yogurt parfaits feel like you’re eating a decadent dessert.  In a clear bowl layer sliced strawberries, vanilla Greek yogurt, and some sliced almonds or granola.  Repeat for additional layers.  Feel free to change up the fruit to take advantage of what is available seasonally or to what your child prefers.  Bananas are available year round and add a healthy dose of potassium to the parfait.  If you use 1 cup of Greek yogurt and ¼ cup of almonds your parfait will have 30g of protein.
  5. Sliced apples, peanut butter, and a cup of milk pack a high protein punch.  Pairing peanut butter with an apple will create a satisfying snack, and having a glass of milk to wash it all down makes it the perfect nutritional powerhouse for kids. With an apple, 2 T of peanut butter, and 1 cup of milk your snack would have 16g of protein.
Published on July 24, 2012, by in Au Pair.

The first day of preschool is usually an exciting milestone, but it can also be a stressful one for both you and your child. One of the most effective ways to combat separation anxiety and other stressors is to begin preparations as early as possible, which will help your child understand both what will be expected of them and what they can expect from this new environment. Making these preparations can also help you weather this transition, which can be especially difficult for first-time parents. In the interest of making the switch from toddler to preschooler as smooth as possible, here are ten ways to get your little one ready for the beginning of their academic career.

  1. Schedule Group Outings and Play Dates – Learning to socialize with peers and work in a group are skills that preschool helps kids to build, but it’s a good idea to start working on them earlier. This is especially important if your preschooler-to-be is an only child, has infant siblings, or hasn’t attended daycare, as they may not have been presented with the opportunity to socialize with children of their own age. Placing an emphasis on the importance of sharing and playing nicely with other kids can help yours to navigate the complex world of small-fry social interactions with aplomb.
  2. Meet the Teacher and Talk About Routines – Your child is sure to be curious about their new teacher; worries that she won’t be nice or won’t like them can be a huge source of anxiety in the weeks leading up to the first day. Arranging a meeting with the teacher can put those worries to bed, especially if the meeting can be held in the classroom where their preschool classes will take place. It’s important to remember that this new adventure is also a complete disruption of the routine that your child has come to depend on, so talking about what to expect from their new routine early and often is advised.
  3. Answer Questions (and Encourage Kids to Ask Them) – Some kids are naturally more talkative than others, but even the chattiest child can be struck mute by worries about her new school. Encourage her to ask any questions she wants, but always answer them truthfully; little white lies will come back to haunt you when your little one discovers that you were dishonest later on.
  4. Imaginative Play – Whether you call it “playing pretend,” “make-believe” or the more scholarly “imaginative play,” these games help children grasp new concepts by applying them practically. Role-playing a typical day at preschool and even indulging in your child’s flights of fancy are valid and valuable ways of letting her experiment with the prospect of attending school and facing a new experience from the safety of her own home.
  5. Visit the Bookstore – There are children’s books dedicated to every imaginable subject and milestone, with a hefty number of shelves reserved for “first day of school” stories. While reading these new books as part of a bedtime story routine can introduce and begin to explain the basics of going to school, instituting a policy of midday “story time” is the most valuable aspect of the storybook-as-instruction experience. There will invariably be a period of your child’s day at preschool dedicated to listening to the teacher read a story, and modeling this experience at home can help her learn to do just that.
  6. Work on Fundamental Skills – Though preschool is designed to get little ones ready for kindergarten by helping them master fundamental skills, giving them a head start is always a good policy. Working on learning the alphabet, counting skills, and practicing color-and-shape recognition are all appropriate ways to prepare a child for the academic demands of preschool.
  7. Practice “Quiet Time” – Kids that are used to having the run of the house and who have a tendency to be a bit on the rambunctious side can benefit enormously from practicing “quiet time” skills. Learning to sit quietly, to listen, and to interact with her teacher and peers in appropriate ways can prevent behavioral issues and disciplinary action.
  8. Encourage “Big-Kid” Self-Sufficiency – When you’re in a hurry to get out the door it’s tempting to take over for a child who’s just learning to tie her shoes or zip her own jacket in the interest of expediency. However, these small self-sufficiency skills are very important for her to master in the weeks leading up to preschool, as you won’t be there to do them for her. Even though she’ll be under the care of a teacher, self-sufficiency should be encouraged and practiced as often as possible.
  9. Shop For Supplies Together – Taking your child along for the ride when shopping for her school supplies is an important part of the preparation ritual, as is allowing her to choose as many of those supplies as possible. Personalizing her experience with a backpack in her favorite color, a lunchbox featuring her favorite character, and other items she picked out such as pens and pencil boxes allows her to bring familiar faces along for her new adventure, which can provide much-needed comfort in the first few weeks.
  10. Adjust Sleep Schedules Accordingly – If you have a child who loves to sleep in, you may be loath to trade in that schedule before you absolutely have to. However, working on getting a little one in bed early and waking her up at the time that she’ll be getting up for school weeks before the first day conditions both of you to your new schedule in advance. Waiting until a few days before school starts can leave you and your child a bit sleep deprived and ill-adjusted, complicating the entire process and dramatically upping the chances of a meltdown when it’s time for you to leave.

Your child may surprise you by skipping happily in to the classroom with scarcely a look back, but she’s far more likely to have a case of nerves and to shed a few tears. Though it goes against every parental instinct you have to leave your crying child in the care of a stranger, lingering will only prolong the process and upset both of you more. Preschool teachers have been thoroughly trained to handle separation situations effectively; by the time you’re out of sight, your little one is likely to already be distracted and otherwise engaged.

Published on July 18, 2012, by in Au Pair.

The interview process is a tricky one when you’re hiring an au pair because you have to get creative in the ways that they’re conducted since your au pair is usually coming over from a different country. If you’ve narrowed down your options and are ready to start interviewing then pick a one or more of these ten different methods of interviewing to get the most out of your interview:

  1. Traditional Application – When you initially begin weeding out potential au pairs you can have them fill out an employment application that answers all of your basic questions and so they can provide you with references. Having this on hand will serve as a good base point for any follow-up interviews.
  2. Video – When you are starting the interview process a good way to get a grasp of your candidate is to have them send you a video application in addition to an application they’ve filled out. This way you’ll get a good foundation for what to expect from your interviewee. However don’t limit yourself to this way, and be sure to follow-up with a live video chat or phone interview.
  3. Email – It’s a good idea to begin conducting interviews with your au pair through email. This will help you clarify any questions from their initial application and help you learn a little about your potential employee. Emails are a great way to get the dry information out of the way.
  4. Online chat – If you can coordinate a time when you’re both available online you can set up a time to chat via GChat or Instant Messenger or some other sort of chat service. Because the answers will need to be immediate it gives you a little more insight than email does, though your interviews should not be strictly limited to this method.
  5. Phone – Conducting an interview by phone gives you a chance to see how well the au pair speaks English and to have a more in depth conversation your potential caregiver. You always need to have an actual conversation with an au pair and not just interact solely through email.
  6. Skype – Skype offers an even better interview than phone or email because you get a chance to actually see who your prospective au pair is. You also are able to pick up on social cues that you otherwise are lacking in interviews done via email or over the phone.
  7. FaceTime – If you both have access to an Apple device then FaceTime will provide you with the same benefits that Skype will in that it allows you to video chat with your interviewee.
  8. In person – The best option for interviews by far is always going to be in person, though face to face interviews are rare when it comes to hiring an au pair. Still, if you have the opportunity to do so then a face to face interview will give you a better understanding of the au pair all around.
  9. Trained Interviewer – Most agencies have trained interviewers that screen all potential au pair applicants. If you have the opportunity to communicate with one of the interviewers, they may be able to give you some insight that you missed through other forms of interviewing.
  10. Have a trusted source interview them – This method won’t work for everyone, but if you have a relative, friend, or someone you trust living or visiting the same country as your potential au pair then have them conduct an interview while they’re there. Getting feedback from someone whose opinion you value can help the interview process.

Using multiple forms of interviewing will give you a more well-rounded feel for any au pair you’re potentially interviewing, so don’t limit yourself to one method. Interviewing them multiple times and in multiple ways will minimize any surprises that may occur after the hire.